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Enhancing Peer Led Team Learning Through Cooperative Learning

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Fostering and Assessing Effective Teaming

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.549.1 - 13.549.10



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Paper Authors

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Steve Roach University of Texas-El Paso

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Elsa Villa University of Texas-El Paso

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Enhancing Peer -Led Team Lear ning in Computer Science thr ough Cooper ative Lear ning


Peer teaching and peer mentoring is in use at many colleges and universities in the United States in an effort to improve undergraduate education. At the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), peer-led team learning (PLTL) is being used in the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, and Computer Science (CS). In CS, we have enhanced the traditional PLTL sessions by incorporating active learning and cooperative learning in the PLTL sessions. Early evaluation of the data suggests that this approach is effective in improving the competency of students and reducing the failure rate in the early CS sequence.


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, computer sciences are expected to be among the fastest growing occupations in the next decade1. The U.S. economy added 150,000 technology- related jobs in 2006 alone. However, according to the Computing Research Association2, between Fall 2000 and Fall 2005, newly declared Computer Science (CS) majors have declined nearly 70 percent. Furthermore, Cohoon and Chen3 reported that the attrition rate among computer science majors is on the rise at a rate of 16 percent. highest among first- and second-year students. Freshmen and sophomores migrated out of the

that the critical juncture for computer science majors is early in the program.

This notion supports the identification of the first three semester-long courses in the computer science program as critical by faculty at UTEP. These courses are CS1: Introduction to Computer Science; CS2: Programming and Algorithms; and CS3: Data Structures. From entry into CS1 to progression through CS3, the average passing rates has been less than 70 percent. To counter this barrier, we began a program to apply effective, research-based retention strategies that actively engage CS students in their learning. The long-term goal is to increase the number of highly qualified students who graduate with degrees in CS from UTEP.

The overall strategy is to foster a culture of scholarship among students at all levels through effective teaching and learning approaches in the introductory CS sequence where students must acquire deep understanding of the key fundamental concepts in CS for success later in the program. Specifically, Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL)4, 5 is the mechanism we have adopted and adapted to foster this culture of scholarship. It is a proven model for involving and retaining students through the creation of an active learning experience for students and leadership roles for peer facilitators. PLTL workshops in CS1, CS2, and CS3 provide timely assistance to students in learning the key course concepts that the students and instructors have identified as essential.

PLTL was originally developed at the City University of New York and has been used at over 90 colleges and universities6. In PLTL, peer leaders conduct weekly workshop sessions to engage

Roach, S., & Villa, E. (2008, June), Enhancing Peer Led Team Learning Through Cooperative Learning Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3707

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